More than 20 percent of Connecticut’s 19,000 prison inmates have moderate to severe mental illness, says the Associated Press. That fact is prompting some state legislators to point out an apparent shortage of trained psychiatric nurses and a need for more training for correction officers. there’s talk of creating a separate facility for inmates with mental illness to ease the space crunch. “Because there seems to be no other options, they end up being dumped in jail,” Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the legislature’s judiciary committee told the New Haven Register.
A study by the state Office of Legislative Research, comes as the state’s prison population continues to grow after the much-publicized killings of a Cheshire mother and her two daughters. Two parolees convicted of burglary have been charged with the crimes. Since the Cheshire killings on July 23, the state prison population has grown by 280 inmates. Lawlor said that’s because judges are setting higher bail amounts for burglars, plea deals have substantially increased and the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles has gotten more conservative in doling out parole approvals. Lawlor said Connecticut’s prisons were designed to handle 17,000 inmates but now hold about 19,000. “We’ve become society’s mental health provider,” Steve Curran, a correction officer at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, told the Register.